Paul Kelly appreciates and absorbs many and varied types of art. From portraits hung on the wall, to landscapes, to literature, to football- all the while, Kelly notices and enjoys. He also looks, and listens, and hears the character in someones voice and presence. Occasionally, something really sticks. For a long time Kelly has fallen for the sweet and strong voices of Vika and Linda Bull. The two sisters have fluttered in and out of Kelly’s life and work. For anyone who has seen them perform live, it is no wonder. They lye at different ends of the spectrum, Vika has great power to her voice, while Linda’s voice can be so soft and delicate- and yet their balance, the light and shade is beautiful, and their harmonies exquisite. Kelly explains that Vika was singing one of his old songs, ‘Sweet Guy’, and brought the house down. He wanted to record her version, and then thought that it was an opportunistic time to record a few more songs while there. That was where The Merri Soul Sessions began and the ball began to roll.

Soul would not be the first genre that would come to mind when you when you think of Paul Kelly, but when you add in the Bull Sisters, Clairy Browne, Dan Sultan, and Kira Puru, there is a strong soul pull. Kelly had an idea for a song for Linda, and wrote a few with Dan Sultan. From there, bit by bit, the music and the musicians and the songs came together. Kelly had enjoyed ‘Love Letter’, a honky-tonk tune by Clairy Browne, and Browne joined the project with producer Steve Schram. Next was the soul singing powerhouse who caught Kelly’s eye, not only for her voice, but for her presence, as she stood and sung, rather casually, and passionately, with a glass of red wine in hand to ‘One Eye Open‘. Kelly had envisaged Kira Puru singing ‘I Don’t Know What I’d Do’. This was a song that he had written for his most recent album, Spring and Fall, but had not sung it right for himself just yet.

With an all important backing band, made up of Peter Luscombe, drums and percussion; Bill McDonald, bass; Ash Naylor guitar, electric mainly; Cam Bruce, piano and organ; Vika and Linda, and Kelly on rhythm guitar, the cohort were ready to play, practice and record.

Up in Northcote, the musicians found their way to Southpark Studios, right by Merri Creek. They began on Feburary the 17th and recorded a song a day until March 1st. Sundays were their days off before getting back into rehearsals of a Monday morning. It worked well, and in the end, they had enough time up their sleeves to record an album closer, ‘Hasn’t It Rained’.

Kelly’s nephew, Dan Kelly, guests on one song, ‘Keep On Coming Back For More’. It is a rarity to pool all of these talented musicians together for a project, and the end result is impressive.

The songs are available digitally, but more lovingly, a stack of them have been pressed as seven inch singles.

You can purchase whole bundles at Paul Kelly’s online store.